Sunday, May 4, 2008

The Pope Throws in a Wrench

In the Pope's shortsighted wisdom, family history work has made a giant leap backwards. Now that we have technology that allows us to research our ancestors (anyone in the world with access to a computer and the Internet if only through a library - rich, poor, busy, etc.) the Pope has determined that Parish records cannot be searched, filmed and recorded by the LDS Church membership. This is significant because the Church owns the largest repository of genealogical records in the world. By filming civil and church records, they protect and preserve records by making a back-up source. Everyone knows if there are two copies, it is safer against natural disaster, fire, etc. If the original is lost, a duplicate can be found at the Family History Library. They even keep a second copy in the granite vaults in the mountains.

Then, through, the Church makes the records available to researchers interested in discovering their roots. This is a sad day for researchers. I pray that the Pope, in his haste to show his prejudice against the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, will come to his senses when he realizes that the majority of searchers at the library are actually non-LDS members. Genealogy is one of the most popular hobbies and one of the most significant positive uses of the internet (last I heard it was second only to porn). It requires someone collecting the information, indexing it, and posting it in a searchable format. Will the Pope assume this service which comes at great expense and manpower? LDS Church members voluntarily index records to make them available to all people everywhere.

Now, the Pope has determined that people must travel to the various parish he/she wants to search to find the records as was often necessary a century ago if you wanted to trace your roots, so few people could find their ancestors. This means much money, travel, time and effort that the average person can't do. I guess he favors the rich researchers who are also able to prove they are not LDS (since his proclamation only excludes LDS Church members). Maybe he also has stock in professional non-LDS genealogists who will be able to access the records. Or perhaps he is concerned about the tourist industry since so many non-LDS travel to Salt Lake City to use the world-famous library to find their own ancestors and stories. It seems like a knee-jerk reaction and irrational fear without regards to the far-reaching consequences of such action.

Of course the Pope's main concern is that dead Catholics might be baptized vicariously into the LDS Church. This would only be a concern if he believes this is true doctrine and is even possible since no bodies are exhumed and it is only the name that is taken to the temple for ordinance work. This is also the concern of the Jewish people. Their opposition ("methinks though doth protest too much") only validates the work in my mind. If it were not true, there would be no worry on the part of these non-believers. But, it does bring up the misunderstanding about the fact that we believe even if ordinances are performed for our dead ancestors, they would only be valid in the hereafter if that person chose to accept them - duh! We absolutely believe in agency. Each individual can choose - this is a God-given fundamental principle of the Gospel.

"1 Corinthians 15:29
Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? why are they then baptized for the dead?"

For more commentary, click the title of this post for direct or go here if you prefer to cut and paste:

And comments from an avid Catholic Genealogist:


  1. No words for how I feel about this. Ugh!

  2. This really excited me because, as a former missionary, I realized how many millions of Catholics will suddenly have questions in their mind about baptism for the dead. The trouble is that it's mentioned in the New Testament by Paul:

    "1 Corinthians 15:29 (KJV)
    Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? why are they then baptized for the dead?"

    Any "good Catholic" (as the ones I taught on my mission refer to themselves) will recognize that it was a doctrine in the original Church. You don't even need the King James Version. Here are other versions used by other churches:

    1 Corinthians 15:29 (NLV)
    "What good will it do people if they are baptized for the dead? If the dead are not raised, why are people baptized for them?"

    1 Corinthians 15:29 (NRSV)
    "Otherwise, what will those people do who receive baptism on behalf of the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why are people baptized on their behalf?"

    Plenty more to compare here:

    I think the Pope unwittingly did a great service to the Missionary work of the Church.

  3. Thanks Jack, for finding the quote - it was exactly the one that came to my mind too!


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